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Everything You Need to Know About Lighting Gel Sheets

Everything You Need to Know About Lighting Gel Sheets

Posted by Heather Knight on 3rd May 2019

Are you looking to learn more about lighting gel sheets?  This article is packed full of information about how to select a gel sheet color, how to attach a gel sheet, temperatures at which gel sheets will work, gel sheet dimensions, gel sheet functions, types of gel sheets, and popular gel sheet colors. 

What is the primary use of a lighting gel sheet?

Lighting gel sheets are used primarily to change or filter the color of light.There are several categories of gel sheets, including color effect, color correction, diffusion, reflection, LED, and scrim.Gel sheets are typically used by theatre directors, technical directors, production managers, and stage crews to change the color of light in theatrical or stage productions Gels are also used for photography, television, film and movie production purposes.Gel sheets can also be used to block unwanted light, with the use of black foil, from a shoot.

Who are the primary manufacturers of gel sheets? 

In the United States, consumers are able to purchase gel sheets from Lee Filters, Rosco, and Apollo.  This article will focus on Lee Filters as this is the product line with which we are most familiar.

What types of gel sheets are there?

The major types of gel sheet categories are color filters, diffusion filters, and LED filters.  

  • Color filters are used to change the color of a light.  
  • Diffusion filters are used to soften or spread a light beam and reduce the contrast between highlight areas. The diffusion filter range includes many sub-categories including diffusions, frosts, flexi-frosts, grid cloths and spuns.  
  • LED filters, which are known as Zircon filters in the Lee Filters line, are specifically designed for use with LED applications. Zircon gels are used to warm up or cool down and correct white LED light, remove green tints, or reduce light levels. 

What size (dimensions) are Lee Filters gel sheets? Are gels available in a format other than a gel sheet?

Lee Filters gel sheets are available in many different sizes:

Lee Filters gels are also available in different size ROLLS:

  • Standard color gel rolls are 48 inches wide by 25 feet in length.
  • Zircon gel rolls are 4 feet by 10 feet.
  • Some gel colors are also available as "quick rolls". Quick rolls are available in 2 inch increments (2,4,6,8 inches in height) and are 25 feet in length. The customer selects the width inch increment that they need for their application.

How thick are gel sheets?

  • Most polyester colored effect filters (also referred to as standard regular temperature gel sheets) are 0.08mm thick
  • Diffusion filters vary in thickness
  • Zircon gels are 0.18 mm thick

What if I have a competitors gel sheet number? How do I locate the Lee Filters gel sheet number that is the came as a competitor's product?

The Lee Filters website has a great function, which is named "gel comparator", which allows you to plug in the name of any make of gel sheet and find the comparable Lee Filters color. You can find the gel comparator at the following link: GEL COMPARATOR

What if I am trying to adjust for a certain type of lamp or fixture?  What if I have an originating light source color temperature and want to adjust for a desired converted color temperature?

If you would like to figure out which gel sheet would work best with a specific type of lamp or fixture, then you can consult the Lee Filters "mired shift calculator" at the following link: MIRED SHIFT CALCULATOR You will input the original source value and the converted source value, in kelvin, and the mired shift calculator will recommend the appropriate gel filter color.

Is there an easy way to see all the gel sheet colors?

Lee Filters currently has about 250 different colors available in their product selection of gel sheets. There are a 

Lee Swatchbook

couple of different ways to look at the full offering of Lee Filters gel sheets:

The Lee Filters website has an application called "swatchball" in which you can drag your mouse to the color that you are interested in investigating. This can help you locate the color codes in the range of colors that you are considering.  You can find the link to download the Lee Filters "swatchball"  application at the bottom of the page of the following link: SWATCHBALL

Another method to view the full line of Lee Filters products is to order a Lee Filters swatchbook which has a small (roughly 2 inch by 1/2 inch) sample gel sheet for each gel.

How do I attach a gel sheet to a lighting fixture?

The recommended method for attaching a gel sheet to a lighting fixture is to use a color frame or gel frame. The color frame/gel frame is attached to the light emitting end of the lighting fixture. The gel sheet is then placed in the color frame. Although, these gel sheets are designed to withstand high temperatures, the manufacturer does not recommend putting a gel sheet directly against a light source.

At what temperature do gel sheets work?

A standard polyester gel sheet should sustain temperature up to 180 degrees Celsius/356 degrees Fahrenheit. A high temperature gel sheet should sustain temperatures up to 280 degrees Celsius/536 degrees Fahrenheit. There is not any published information regarding the various wattage of sources and how they affect the filters.The best we can offer is the melting points/max temperature ranges for each type of gel.  This is 356 Fahrenheit for the polyester gel (regular gel sheets) and 536 Fahrenheit for the polycarbonate (high temperature) gel sheets.

What material is a gel sheet made from?

Gel sheets are made from a few different types of materials. Standard gel sheets are made from a very thin polyester material. Gel sheets are also available in dichroic and glass forms.

Can I cut a gel sheet?

Yes, a gel sheet is made of very thin material which can be cut easily with scissors or a box-cutter. The gel sheets can be cut down to whatever size dimensions you should need.

Are lighting gels fire-proof?

Standard lighting gel sheets are not fire-proof and the user must use the product carefully so as to avoid fire hazards when working with light fixtures. A gel sheet should never be placed directly on or in close proximity to a light source (i.e., lamp or bulb). The light source could cause the gel sheet to catch on fire. To attach a gel sheet safely to a lighting fixture, the user must attach the gel sheet to a gel color frame which is compatible with the lighting fixture in use.

What if I need help selecting the right color of gel sheet?

The selection of a gel sheet color is a very personal process. Everyone sees colors in a slightly different way. It can sometimes be difficult to communicate exactly which color you are envisioning in your mind's eye. For instance, one person's definition of the color "plum" will not necessarily be the same as another person's. For these reasons, we would definitely recommend that you consult the Lee Filters website and use their "swatchball" product or their "gel comparator" product to help guide your color selection. It is also very useful to use a Lee Filters swatchbook to guide your product selection. Please also bare in mind that the picture images online of all gel filters are best viewed at a depth of 256 colors or more.

What if I am working specifically with LED lighting?

Lee Filters has introduced an LED specific line of filters called the Zircon gels. Zircon gels are great for use with LED lighting applications. To see the full line of Zircon gels, you can go to the Zircon product section. The Zircon gels are a new concept in LED filter design with a lifespan of up to 200 times longer than standard lighting filters.  As per Lee Filters, Zircon is a new concept in LED filter design that has been designed from the ground-up for exceptional performance with LED Lights. 

What are the most popular colors of gel sheets?

Since color preference is personal, we can only use our sales data to suggest the most popular colors of gel sheets. The gel sheets purchased in the highest volumes from our store are as follows, divided into gel sheet categories:

Color Effects:

Diffusion/Color Correction:

LED Correction:

Thanks for reading our primer on Lee Filters lighting gels.  If you should have any questions please email us at info@goknight.com or call us at 1-866-457-5937.